The Making of a Manager

by Julie Zhuo

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: May 01, 2024
The Making of a Manager
The Making of a Manager

Discover the essential skills and strategies for effective management. Dive into the insights from "The Making of a Manager" and learn to empower your team, build trust, and drive continuous improvement. Actionable advice for becoming a transformative leader.

What are the big ideas?

Management as a Learned Skill

The book emphasizes that management isn't an innate ability, but a skill developed through experience, training, and support from others. This perspective challenges the notion that management prowess is solely inherent, highlighting the importance of ongoing learning and adaptation in the role.

The author's personal journey and reliance on various developmental tools like leadership courses and mentorship are discussed to illustrate this point.

Empowering Teams Over Individual Contribution

A key philosophy presented is that effective managers focus on amplifying their team's overall impact rather than contributing individually to tasks. This shifts the traditional view of management from direct involvement to strategic empowerment, where the manager's role is to enable their team's success.

The book details how managers should prioritize recruitment, training, and process optimization to boost team performance.

Cultivating a Trust-Based Manager-Report Relationship

The book advocates for building trust through transparency and integrity in interactions with team members. This involves regular, meaningful one-on-ones, acknowledging one's own mistakes, and handling team dynamics carefully to ensure a supportive work environment.

Examples include managers admitting their mistakes and focusing on the strengths of team members to foster a positive and trustful team culture.

Feedback as a Continuous, Constructive Loop

Unlike traditional models that view feedback as periodic evaluations, the book introduces feedback as an ongoing cycle that fosters continuous improvement and open communication. This helps create a culture of regular personal and professional growth, with feedback acting as a pivotal element in shaping behaviors and outcomes.

The use of task-specific feedback and behavioral feedback sessions are discussed to show how they contribute to the development of team members.

Strategic Meeting Management for Effective Collaboration

The book offers a structured approach to conducting meetings, emphasizing the importance of clear objectives, right participants, preparation, and follow-ups to make meetings productive and purposeful. This counters the common pitfall of unstructured and ineffective meetings that plague many organizations.

Techniques like setting clear agendas, inviting only essential personnel, and following up on action items are suggested to streamline meeting processes.

Creating a Proactive Hiring Culture

Highlighting the strategic role of hiring in team development, the book stresses the manager's accountability in the hiring process to shape the team’s future. It promotes proactive hiring practices that seek diverse, capable candidates who not only fill current roles but also bring potential for future contributions.

The book describes how managers should plan for team evolution and actively participate with recruiters to find the best fits for the team, embodying a forward-thinking hiring strategy.

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Management as a Learned Skill

Management is a learned skill, not an innate ability. The book emphasizes that great managers are made, not born. This challenges the common misconception that management prowess is solely inherent.

The author's own journey demonstrates the importance of ongoing learning and adaptation in the management role. They relied on various developmental tools like leadership courses, mentorship, and reflection to hone their skills over time. This highlights that management is a craft that must be continuously practiced and refined.

Becoming an effective manager requires more than just natural talent. It involves actively seeking out training, advice, and feedback from experienced peers and colleagues. By embracing management as a learned skill, individuals can develop the necessary people-oriented abilities to successfully lead and support their teams.

Here are examples from the context that support the key insight that management is a learned skill:

  • The author's own transition to management was not immediate - it "took time for us to develop a strong relationship" with their initially skeptical reports.

  • The author emphasizes the importance of "transitioning gracefully into the role and nailing the essentials of leading a small team" in the early days as a manager. This suggests management is a skill that must be developed.

  • The author discusses "reflection" and "setting goals" as important practices for new managers to engage in, further highlighting management as a skill that requires ongoing learning and development.

  • The author shares examples of new managers expressing surprise at the challenges they faced, indicating management is not an innate ability but something that must be learned on the job.

  • The author recommends "making a mentor out of everyone" and taking advantage of the expertise of peers, managers, and team members - demonstrating that managers must actively seek out support and guidance to develop their skills.

  • The author discusses specific management skills like "diagnosing and solving people issues" and "building a trusting relationship" with reports, underscoring that these are learned capabilities, not inherent traits.

In summary, the context emphasizes that effective management is not something that comes naturally, but rather a skill that must be cultivated through experience, training, and support from others. The book presents management as a learnable competency, rather than an innate ability.

Empowering Teams Over Individual Contribution

The most effective managers recognize that their role is not to be the star performer, but to empower their team to achieve greater collective impact. This shift in mindset moves management away from direct individual contribution and towards strategic enablement.

Managers should focus on recruiting top talent, developing their team's skills, and optimizing processes - rather than trying to personally handle every task. By amplifying the capabilities of their team, managers can unlock far more output and innovation than they ever could alone.

This approach requires managers to let go of the need to be the expert or the hero. Instead, they must become skilled at identifying and nurturing their team's strengths. The goal is to create an environment where each team member can thrive and contribute at their highest level.

Ultimately, great managers understand that their true value lies in elevating their entire team, not in individual heroics. This empowerment mindset is the key to unlocking exponential gains in team performance and impact.

Here are specific examples from the context that support the key insight of empowering teams over individual contribution:

  • The book discusses how a manager should focus on "managing to strengths" - identifying and leveraging the unique talents of each team member rather than trying to "fix" weaker performers. As the book states, "If you have five people on your team, four of whom are doing well and one who isn't, you may feel like you should focus most of your time and energy on the struggling report because you want to 'fix' the problem. But in the same way that individuals should play to their strengths, so should you pay attention to your team's top talent—the people who are doing well and could be doing even better."

  • The book cautions against tolerating "brilliant assholes" on the team, even if they are highly productive individually. It explains that the "presence of this person makes the rest of your team less effective" and that "the team actually becomes better off when brilliant assholes leave." The focus is on cultivating a collaborative, supportive team culture over optimizing for individual contributions.

  • The book emphasizes that a manager's key responsibilities are to ensure purpose, people, and process for the team, rather than directly contributing to the team's work. This includes aligning the team around a shared vision, developing trusting relationships with team members, and optimizing how the team works together, rather than the manager doing the work themselves.

  • An example is provided of the author initially clashing with new managers who brought more structured processes, only to later appreciate how their strengths complemented the team's weaknesses as the organization scaled. The focus was on building a diverse team with different perspectives, not just promoting from within.

The key theme is that effective managers empower their teams to achieve more collectively, rather than relying on their own individual contributions. The manager's role is to strategically recruit, develop, and coordinate the team for maximum impact.

Cultivating a Trust-Based Manager-Report Relationship

The most important aspect of effective management is cultivating trust-based relationships with your team members. As a manager, you must be willing to be vulnerable and transparent in your interactions. This means regularly checking in with your reports, acknowledging your own mistakes, and creating an environment where open and honest feedback is welcomed.

When you build trust, your team members will feel comfortable bringing their challenges and concerns to you. They'll see you as a supportive partner, not just an authority figure. In turn, this allows you to better understand their needs and provide the guidance and resources they require to succeed.

Earning trust is an ongoing process. It requires consistently demonstrating that you genuinely care about your team's growth and development. Share your own struggles and missteps - this shows you're human, not just a boss. Solicit feedback and be receptive to criticism. Over time, this will cultivate a culture of mutual respect and accountability.

The payoff of this approach is immense. When your team trusts you, they'll be more engaged, motivated, and willing to go the extra mile. They'll see you as a leader they want to follow, not just a manager they have to report to. Prioritizing trust is the foundation for building a high-performing, cohesive team.

Here are key examples from the context that support the insight of cultivating a trust-based manager-report relationship:

  • The manager shares a personal story about how he failed to practice what he preached regarding the importance of asking for feedback. When one of his reports pointed this out, it was "eye opening" and made him resolve to keep practicing it until it became habitual. This demonstrates the importance of managers modeling the behaviors they want to see in their team.

  • The context emphasizes the need for managers to create an environment where reports feel comfortable being completely honest, even about their mistakes and challenges. As the passage states, "If your reports don't tell you how they're really feeling, you can't help them." Building this trust is critical.

  • The passage discusses the importance of managers and reports being able to give each other "critical feedback" without it being taken personally. It uses the analogy of being able to tell a best friend an unflattering opinion, versus a stranger, to illustrate the level of trust required.

  • A key indicator of a strong manager-report relationship is whether the report would want to work for that manager again in the future. The passage states this is "one of the truest indicators of the strength of your relationships."

  • The manager shares a personal story about relating to one of his reports over a shared struggle with micromanagement. This humanizing moment helped them connect on a personal level, beyond just the manager-report dynamic.

  • The passage emphasizes that for a manager to earn trust, they must genuinely "respect and care about" their reports. Faking this is impossible, as reports can sense the manager's true feelings.

Feedback as a Continuous, Constructive Loop

Feedback is a continuous, constructive loop that drives ongoing personal and professional growth. Unlike traditional periodic evaluations, feedback should be a regular, open dialogue that shapes behaviors and outcomes.

Task-specific feedback provides timely, detailed guidance on individual actions and projects. This allows team members to quickly course-correct and improve their work. Behavioral feedback goes deeper, examining patterns in how someone approaches their role. This helps individuals understand how their unique strengths, weaknesses, and habits impact their effectiveness.

Gathering 360-degree feedback from multiple perspectives creates a more comprehensive, objective view of someone's performance. This holistic assessment uncovers blind spots and highlights areas for development that an individual manager may miss.

The key is to make feedback a natural, ongoing part of the work culture. When feedback is delivered thoughtfully and received with humility, it becomes a powerful tool for continuous improvement, not a source of anxiety. Managers should model this mindset, regularly soliciting feedback themselves and using it to grow.

Key Insight: Feedback as a Continuous, Constructive Loop

The context highlights how feedback should be viewed as an ongoing cycle that fosters continuous improvement and open communication, rather than just periodic evaluations. This helps create a culture of regular personal and professional growth, with feedback acting as a pivotal element in shaping behaviors and outcomes.


  • Task-Specific Feedback: The context provides two examples of task-specific feedback:

    • "That research report you shared yesterday was excellent. The way you succinctly summarized the most important findings at the top made it easy to process. The particular insight about X was really useful."
    • "Quick note about the presentation you gave this morning: I noticed you went straight to the proposal without explaining how you got there. This made it hard to assess why it was the best path. Next time, try spending a few minutes walking through your process and what alternatives you considered." These examples show how task-specific feedback can be provided in a timely manner to coach individuals on specific actions and tasks.
  • Behavioral Feedback: The context explains how behavioral feedback looks at broader themes and patterns in an individual's work, such as "Does he make decisions quickly or slowly? Is he a process wizard or an unconventional thinker? Does he gravitate toward pragmatic or idealistic solutions?" This type of feedback helps the individual understand how their unique traits and habits impact their effectiveness. The context provides two examples of behavioral feedback:

    • "When people ask you questions about your work, your tone is often defensive. For example, when Sally left a comment on your code, you replied with 'just trust me.' This disregarded the substance of her feedback and made you appear less trustworthy."
    • "Your recruiting skills are top-notch. Candidates often say they leave a conversation with you feeling more inspired than when they began. You also have a keen sense for suggesting the right people for the right roles. For example, you identified John for Project X a year ago, and now he's thriving."
  • 360-Degree Feedback: The context explains how 360-degree feedback, which aggregates feedback from multiple perspectives, can provide a more complete and objective view of an individual's performance. This is particularly useful "when you lack deep context on your report's day-to-day." The examples provided include:

    • "Your peers give you a lot of props for how you managed the budget crisis. This was important and difficult work, and your calm demeanor, excellent listening skills, and rational arguments helped the team get to a good outcome."
    • "One of the consistent themes from your 360-feedback is that your plans need more rigor. An example is how you left out the edge case of senior discounts in your pricing proposal, which resulted in incorrect projections. This pattern of small errors across your work is starting to undermine your credibility."

The key point is that feedback should be an ongoing, constructive process that helps individuals continuously improve, rather than just a periodic evaluation. The examples illustrate how task-specific, behavioral, and 360-degree feedback can all contribute to this continuous loop of growth and development.

Strategic Meeting Management for Effective Collaboration

Effective Meeting Management Drives Collaboration Meetings are essential for collaboration, but they can easily become unproductive if not properly structured. The key is to approach meetings strategically, with clear objectives and the right participants.

Set Explicit Meeting Objectives - Before scheduling a meeting, define its primary purpose - whether it's to share information, provide feedback, generate ideas, or strengthen relationships. This focus ensures the meeting stays on track and achieves its intended goals.

Invite the Right People - Carefully select meeting attendees based on their relevance to the objectives. Avoid overcrowding the room with unnecessary participants, which can lead to distraction and disengagement. Ensure all key stakeholders are present to make informed decisions.

Prepare Thoroughly - Invest time in preparing the meeting content, materials, and facilitation approach. This boosts engagement and makes the most of everyone's time. Allocate quiet individual thinking time to generate diverse ideas before group discussion.

Follow Up Effectively - Meetings should not exist in isolation. Capture action items, decisions, and next steps, then communicate them to attendees. This accountability helps turn meeting outcomes into tangible progress.

By applying these strategic principles, organizations can transform their meetings into productive, collaborative forums that drive meaningful results.

Key Insight: Strategic Meeting Management for Effective Collaboration

The context highlights the importance of strategic meeting management to enable effective collaboration and achieve desired outcomes. Some key examples and techniques from the text include:

  • Defining Clear Meeting Objectives: The context emphasizes the need to be clear on the primary purpose of a meeting, whether it is to share information, provide feedback, generate ideas, or strengthen relationships. Meetings should have a specific goal in mind rather than trying to accomplish too much.

  • Inviting the Right Participants: The author suggests carefully considering who needs to be present for a meeting, avoiding inviting too many extraneous people which can lead to "lackluster energy." The right stakeholders should be invited to ensure all perspectives are represented.

  • Thorough Preparation: The context stresses the importance of preparing for meetings, noting that "Preparation and good facilitation is key" for effective idea generation meetings. This includes ensuring participants have time for individual ideation before group discussion.

  • Facilitating Psychological Safety: The author discusses the need to create an environment where people feel safe to contribute openly, without fear of judgment. Explicitly setting norms around welcoming dissent and diverse perspectives can encourage broader participation.

  • Driving Action and Accountability: The context emphasizes the importance of clear follow-ups after meetings, including summarizing decisions, documenting action items and owners, and scheduling the next check-in. This helps translate meeting discussions into tangible progress.

  • Ruthless Efficiency: The author advocates for being selective about which meetings are necessary, and streamlining those that do occur. Unnecessary or unproductive meetings can be a major drain on organizational productivity.

By applying these strategic meeting management techniques, the context suggests organizations can foster more effective collaboration and achieve better outcomes from their meetings.

Creating a Proactive Hiring Culture

Hiring is a strategic imperative for managers. It's not just about filling open roles - it's about shaping the future of your team. Adopt a proactive hiring culture that seeks out diverse, capable candidates who can grow with the organization.

As a manager, you are accountable for the team you build. Don't just rely on recruiters to find candidates - actively participate in the process. Understand the specific skills and experiences you need, and partner with recruiters to develop a targeted sourcing strategy. Look for patterns and unconventional backgrounds that could yield great hires.

When hiring leaders, do your due diligence. Talk to industry experts, interview multiple candidates, and assess how they would fit your team's needs and culture. A bad leadership hire can be hugely disruptive, so take the time to find the right fit.

Approach hiring with a long-term mindset. Build relationships with talented professionals, even if you can't hire them right away. Great candidates often choose opportunities where they already have connections. Invest in your team's reputation to attract top talent when the timing is right.

Hiring at scale requires diligent execution. Break down the process into measurable steps, and get your whole team involved. Aim for consistent, efficient operations to meet your growth goals. Hiring may be your top priority, but it's a team effort.

Here are specific examples from the context that support the key insight of creating a proactive hiring culture:

  • The book describes how the author's manager Kate started the process of hiring for new leadership roles, even though the team was still small. This proactive approach allowed the team to bring in experienced managers who could help the company scale as it grew.

  • The author initially clashed with the new managers hired by Kate, but came to appreciate how their "strengths were my weaknesses" and the team needed to evolve its processes as the company grew.

  • The book emphasizes the importance of diversity in hiring, citing studies showing the benefits of ethnic/racial diversity and gender diversity in management. It states that "prioritizing diversity means that you actively seek out candidates who offer something different."

  • The book advises hiring people who are capable of more than the immediate role requires, so they can help tackle bigger problems in the future. The author gave an example of hiring a director-level candidate for a smaller team, who then proactively identified and executed on other initiatives to help the team scale.

  • The book stresses that the hiring manager must take an active role, not just rely on recruiters. It states "you are the person who ultimately owns the team you build" and provides guidance on how to partner with recruiters to identify, interview, and close the best candidates.

  • The book recommends doing thorough research when hiring for leadership roles, talking to prospective candidates and current team members to understand the ideal qualifications, rather than rushing into these critical hires.


Let's take a look at some key quotes from "The Making of a Manager" that resonated with readers.

Your role as a manager is not to do the work yourself, even if you are the best at it, because that will only take you so far. Your role is to improve the purpose, people, and process of your team to get as high a multiplier effect on your collective outcome as you can.

A manager's primary goal is not to excel individually, but to empower their team to achieve greater collective success. By focusing on enhancing the team's purpose, people, and processes, a manager can amplify their team's outcomes and drive exponential growth. This mindset shift enables managers to prioritize building a high-performing team over personal achievements, leading to more sustainable and far-reaching results.

This is the crux of management: It is the belief that a team of people can achieve more than a single person going it alone. It is the realization that you don’t have to do everything yourself, be the best at everything yourself, or even know how to do everything yourself. Your job, as a manager, is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.

Effective management is about recognizing the collective power of a team, where individual strengths combine to achieve more than one person could alone. It's about understanding that you don't need to be an expert in everything, but rather empower others to excel in their areas. By doing so, managers can unlock better outcomes through collaboration and teamwork.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel, goes the popular saying.

The way we interact with others leaves a lasting impact on their emotions and memory. While the details of our conversations and actions may fade over time, the feelings we evoke in others stay with them forever. This is because emotions are deeply tied to our personal experiences, making them more memorable than facts or events. By being mindful of how we make others feel, we can build stronger, more meaningful relationships.

Comprehension Questions

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How well do you understand the key insights in "The Making of a Manager"? Find out by answering the questions below. Try to answer the question yourself before revealing the answer! Mark the questions as done once you've answered them.

1. What is the common misconception about management skills?
2. How can someone develop their management skills according to the text?
3. Why is it important for managers to seek ongoing training and feedback?
4. What are some practices a new manager should engage in to become effective?
5. How does one benefit from viewing management as a skill to be learned rather than an innate ability?
6. What is the primary role of a manager in the context of elevating team performance?
7. Why should managers focus on their team's strengths rather than trying to fix weaker performers?
8. What negative impact might a high-performing but disruptive individual have on a team?
9. How does the concept of 'managing to strengths' relate to optimizing team performance?
10. What is the fundamental requirement for a manager to effectively lead their team?
11. How can a manager show they are truly human and approachable to their team members?
12. What impact does building trust have on a team's performance and motivation?
13. How can a manager ensure that they are consistently earning their team's trust?
14. Why is it essential for team members to feel they can discuss their challenges openly with their manager?
15. What is the purpose of incorporating feedback as a regular part of work culture?
16. How does task-specific feedback contribute to an individual's work performance?
17. What is the benefit of 360-degree feedback in the workplace?
18. Why is it important for feedback to be received with humility?
19. What role does behavioral feedback play in enhancing an individual's effectiveness?
20. What is the primary purpose of setting explicit objectives before scheduling a meeting?
21. Why is it important to invite only the right people to a meeting?
22. What role does thorough preparation play in the effectiveness of a meeting?
23. How should follow-up be conducted after a meeting to ensure its effectiveness?
24. What is the importance of a manager's involvement in the hiring process?
25. How does a proactive approach to hiring benefit an organization?
26. Why is it important for hiring practices to focus on diversity?
27. How should organizations approach hiring to scale effectively?
28. What are the potential consequences of a bad leadership hire?

Action Questions

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"Knowledge without application is useless," Bruce Lee said. Answer the questions below to practice applying the key insights from "The Making of a Manager". Mark the questions as done once you've answered them.

1. What steps can you take to improve your management skills this month?
2. How can you use reflection and goal setting to enhance your effectiveness as a manager?
3. How can you improve your ability to identify and utilize the strengths of each team member in your current management practices?
4. What steps can you take to demonstrate vulnerability and authenticity in your professional relationships?
5. How can you create a system within your team to ensure feedback is an ongoing, regular conversation rather than a periodic evaluation?
6. What strategies can you implement to ensure that feedback remains constructive and promotes personal and professional growth?
7. What strategies can you implement to maintain focused participation and avoid overcrowding in your meetings?
8. How can you start building relationships with potential hires before you have an open role?
9. What steps will you take to ensure that your hiring processes include a variety of perspectives, particularly from underrepresented groups?

Chapter Notes

Introduction: Great Managers Are Made, Not Born

Here are the key takeaways from the chapter:

  • Management is a learned skill, not an innate talent: The author's experience shows that becoming a successful manager is not something one is born with, but rather a skill that is developed over time through practice and learning.

  • Transitioning to a management role can be challenging and uncomfortable: The author describes feeling unprepared, nervous, and doubtful when first taking on a management role, despite having a strong technical background. Tasks like interviewing, delivering bad news, and public speaking were all sources of significant anxiety.

  • Managers must navigate the complexities of working with people: The author notes that "running a team is hard because it ultimately boils down to people, and all of us are multifaceted and complex beings." Effectively managing a team requires understanding and addressing the unique needs and perspectives of each individual.

  • Managers can learn and improve through experience, training, and support from others: The author describes learning on the job, taking leadership training courses, reading management books, and receiving guidance from experienced colleagues as key to developing their management skills over time.

  • Sharing one's management journey can help others: The author decided to start a blog to document their management experience, which led to positive feedback and the realization that their story could be valuable to other new or aspiring managers.

  • Management is a critical enabler of collective achievement: The author believes that "working together in teams is how the world moves forward" and that effective management is essential for enabling groups to accomplish more than individuals could alone.

Chapter One: What Is Management?

  • The job of a manager is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together. This is the core definition of management - it is not about doing the work yourself, but rather about enabling a team to achieve more than an individual could.

  • Great managers are judged by the outcomes of their team, not just their individual activities. The true measure of a manager's success is whether their team consistently achieves great results, not how busy or well-liked the manager is.

  • Managers think about three key areas: purpose, people, and process. Purpose is ensuring the team understands and believes in the "why" behind their work. People is about developing and supporting the individuals on the team. Process is establishing how the team coordinates and works together effectively.

  • Managers need to focus on multiplying the team's impact, not just adding to it themselves. By investing time in training, recruiting, and optimizing processes, managers can achieve a much greater impact than if they simply did all the work themselves.

  • Management requires adaptability - the role changes based on the team's needs. Managers must be willing to take on different tasks and responsibilities as the team evolves, rather than clinging to a specific set of activities.

  • Not everyone is well-suited to management. To be a great manager, you need to enjoy the day-to-day people management aspects of the role, be able to provide emotional stability, and be more motivated by team outcomes than individual tasks.

  • Leadership is a separate skill from management. While great managers need leadership abilities to influence and inspire their teams, leadership can exist without formal management responsibilities.

Chapter Two: Your First Three Months

  • Apprentice Managers: Apprentice managers have an advantage in their transition as they already have context about the team and can ramp up quickly. However, they may struggle to establish a new dynamic with former peers, have difficult conversations, and balance individual contributor work with management responsibilities.

  • Pioneer Managers: Pioneer managers have the advantage of knowing the job well and being able to build the team they want. However, they may lack support and struggle to balance individual contributor work with management responsibilities.

  • New Boss Managers: New boss managers have the advantage of a "blank slate" and people cutting them slack in the beginning. However, they need to invest time in adjusting to the new environment and building new relationships.

  • Successor Managers: Successor managers have the advantage of context about the team, but may feel overwhelmed by the increase in responsibility and pressure to do things exactly like the former manager.

  • Key Concepts:

    • Apprentice: A manager whose team is growing, and they've been asked to manage a part of it.
    • Pioneer: A manager who is a founding member of a new group and is now responsible for its growth.
    • New Boss: A manager who is coming in to manage an already established team, either within their existing organization or at a new one.
    • Successor: A manager who is taking over for their former manager who has decided to leave.

Chapter Three: Leading a Small Team

  • Trust is the foundation of a strong manager-report relationship: Managers must build trust by encouraging open communication, giving and receiving critical feedback, and demonstrating that they genuinely care about their reports' success and well-being.

  • Invest time in one-on-one meetings: Regular one-on-one meetings allow managers to understand their reports' priorities, provide support, and help them grow. Preparation is key to making these meetings valuable.

  • Recognize and leverage your reports' strengths: Managers should focus on helping their reports play to their strengths rather than solely addressing weaknesses. Highlighting and capitalizing on people's unique talents can be highly motivating.

  • Admit your own mistakes and growth areas: Managers who show vulnerability and authenticity by acknowledging their own shortcomings can build stronger relationships with their reports.

  • Don't tolerate toxic "brilliant jerks": Managers should not compromise their team's culture and collaboration by keeping highly talented but disruptive individuals on the team. The team's overall performance will improve without these "asshole" types.

  • Make people moves quickly: If a report is not a good fit for their role or the team, managers should act decisively to either find them a more suitable position or part ways respectfully, rather than prolonging an unproductive situation.

  • Coaching is a core management skill: Effective managers are excellent coaches who help their reports understand their goals, overcome obstacles, and grow their impact. Giving constructive feedback is a key part of this coaching process.

Chapter Four: The Art of Feedback

  • Set Clear Expectations at the Beginning: Establish what success looks like, provide advice to get started, and identify common pitfalls before any work begins. This helps avoid future disappointments by aligning on expectations upfront.

  • Give Task-Specific Feedback Frequently: Provide detailed feedback on specific actions or tasks as soon as possible, while the details are still fresh. This becomes a lightweight, habitual part of your day, and helps your reports improve incrementally.

  • Share Behavioral Feedback Thoughtfully and Regularly: Reflect on themes and patterns in your report's behavior, and share this feedback in person to help them understand how their unique traits affect their impact. This deeper level of feedback can feel personal, so it should be delivered with care and specific examples.

  • Collect 360-Degree Feedback for Maximum Objectivity: Gather feedback from multiple perspectives to get a more complete and objective view of your report's performance. This comprehensive feedback should be discussed in person and documented for future reference.

  • Failures are Opportunities to Reset Expectations: When major disappointments occur, ask yourself where you missed setting clear expectations, and how you can do better next time. Proactively adjusting expectations helps people recover from errors with grace.

  • Feedback Only Counts if it Leads to Positive Action: Ensure your feedback is specific, clarifies what success looks like, and suggests next steps. This empowers your reports to translate your feedback into meaningful change.

  • Deliver Critical Feedback or Bad News Directly and Dispassionately: Avoid charged language or personal accusations, and instead state the issue, explain your perspective, and invite your report to share their side. Owning the decision and being firm, yet respectful, is key.

  • Feedback is a Gift: Giving feedback, even when difficult, is a sign of respect and an investment in your report's long-term growth. Mastering this skill is fundamental to being an effective leader.

Chapter Five: Managing Yourself

  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses: Identify your strengths, values, comfort zones, blind spots, and biases through self-reflection and feedback from others. This self-awareness is crucial for effective management.

  • Calibrate your self-perception: Ensure that your self-perception matches reality by actively seeking honest feedback from your manager and peers. This helps you make accurate assessments and decisions.

  • Adopt a growth mindset: Approach challenges and feedback with a belief that you can improve, rather than a fixed mindset that sees them as tests of your worthiness. This mindset shift enables you to learn and grow.

  • Identify your ideal work environment: Understand the conditions that enable you to do your best work, such as adequate sleep, early productivity, and uninterrupted focus time. Adjust your habits and routines to create this environment.

  • Recognize and manage your triggers: Identify situations that elicit an outsized negative reaction from you, and develop strategies to respond calmly and productively.

  • Seek support and feedback: Actively ask for help from your manager, peers, and mentors to improve your skills and address your weaknesses. Treat your manager as a coach, not a judge.

  • Practice self-care and set boundaries: Establish boundaries to prevent work from overwhelming your personal life, as this can inhibit your creativity and effectiveness.

  • Reflect and set goals: Regularly reflect on your progress and set new learning goals to drive your continuous improvement as a manager.

  • Take advantage of formal training: Invest time and resources in formal training, workshops, and coaching to accelerate your development as a manager.

  • Stay true to yourself: Ultimately, learning to be a great manager is about learning to be the best version of yourself, leveraging your unique strengths and personality.

Chapter Six: Amazing Meetings

  • Clearly Define the Purpose and Desired Outcome of the Meeting: The chapter emphasizes the importance of having a clear understanding of the purpose and desired outcome of a meeting, whether it's making a decision, sharing information, providing feedback, generating ideas, or strengthening relationships. This helps ensure the meeting is focused and productive.

  • Invite the Right People: Inviting the right people, and only the right people, to a meeting is crucial. The chapter suggests considering who is necessary to achieve the desired outcome and avoiding inviting extraneous attendees.

  • Give People Time to Prepare: Providing meeting materials and agendas in advance allows attendees to come prepared, which can lead to more meaningful discussions and better decision-making.

  • Follow Up Effectively: The chapter emphasizes the importance of following up after a meeting, including summarizing key takeaways, action items, and next steps, to ensure the meeting's outcomes are translated into tangible progress.

  • Foster a Safe and Inclusive Environment: Creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing is essential for generating ideas, making decisions, and strengthening relationships. The chapter suggests techniques like explicitly setting participation norms, using structured formats, and managing airtime.

  • Critically Evaluate the Need for and Value of Meetings: The chapter encourages managers to regularly review their meeting schedules and attendance, and to be willing to cancel or restructure meetings that are not providing value to the participants.

Chapter Seven: Hiring Well

  • Hiring is an opportunity, not a problem to be solved: Hiring is about building the future of your organization, not just filling holes. It's about finding people who can contribute their talents, teach you new things, inspire and support you, and make work more enjoyable.

  • Design your team intentionally: Plan ahead by mapping out where you want your team to be in a year, analyzing gaps in skills and experiences, and making a list of open roles to hire for. This helps you stay ahead of hiring needs and evaluate candidates against a clear framework.

  • Hiring is the hiring manager's responsibility: You, as the hiring manager, are ultimately responsible for the team you build. Work closely with recruiters to identify, interview, and close the best candidates, and be specific about the skills and experiences you're looking for.

  • Hiring is a gamble, but make smart bets: Interviews are an imperfect predictor of future performance due to biases, the inability to fully recreate the work environment, and people's capacity for growth. Rely on past work examples, trusted recommendations, and multiple interviewers to make more informed decisions.

  • Reject toxic behavior: Be on the lookout for warning signs of toxic behavior, such as bad-mouthing past employers, blaming failures on others, or exhibiting high arrogance and low self-awareness.

  • Build a team with diverse perspectives: Prioritize diversity in all aspects, as it leads to better ideas and better results. Seek out candidates who offer something different from your existing team.

  • Hire people who are capable of more: When possible, hire people who can do more than the immediate role requires, as they can help you tackle bigger problems in the future.

  • Successful hiring at scale is about diligent execution: Break the hiring process down into smaller, measurable steps, and ensure your entire team is playing a role in helping the organization grow.

  • Take the long view with top talent: Recruiting top talent is about building relationships over time, as the best people often choose opportunities where they already know and trust the team.

  • Create a culture that prioritizes hiring well: Make it clear that building the team is everyone's job, not just the hiring manager's. Coach your leaders to treat team building with the utmost care and ensure they dedicate enough time and attention to it.

Chapter Eight: Making Things Happen

  • Concrete Vision: A concrete vision is bold, measurable, and easily repeatable. It describes the desired outcome, not the how. As a manager, it's important to define and share a concrete vision for your team that describes what you're collectively trying to achieve.

  • Realistic Game Plan: A good strategy must have a realistic shot at working and focus on the crux of the problem. It should relate directly to the organization's top-level strategy and leverage your team's unique strengths and capabilities.

  • Prioritization: Prioritization is key - focus on doing a few important things well rather than average effort into too many things. Order tasks and goals by importance and tackle the most critical ones first.

  • Ownership and Accountability: Clearly define who is responsible for what to avoid ambiguity and ensure follow-through. Assign owners for tasks and milestones, and hold people accountable to their commitments.

  • Breaking Down Big Goals: Break down big, long-term goals into smaller, measurable milestones and steps. This creates a sense of urgency and makes success feel within reach.

  • Execution over Strategy: Perfect execution is more important than perfect strategy. Focus on moving quickly, learning, and adapting rather than trying to plan everything out perfectly in advance.

  • Balancing Short-Term and Long-Term: Find the right balance between short-term execution and long-term vision. Define a long-term vision and work backward, while also taking a portfolio approach to projects with different time horizons.

  • Continuous Process Improvement: Processes should be ever-evolving. Use debriefs and retrospectives to learn from mistakes and successes, and codify best practices into repeatable playbooks.

Chapter Nine: Leading a Growing Team

  • Direct to Indirect Management: As a team grows, the manager can no longer have a personal relationship with each individual and must start hiring or developing managers underneath them. This means the manager is further removed from the details of the work and must find the right balance between going deep on problems and trusting others to take care of them.

  • People Treat You Differently: As a manager's authority and position increases, their team may be less likely to challenge them or give them the full truth, seeing the manager as someone to be intimidated by rather than approached. Managers must be intentional about creating an environment where dissenting opinions are welcomed.

  • Context Switching: Larger teams mean more projects and more issues to juggle, requiring managers to constantly shift their focus and attention. Developing techniques like calendar preparation, robust note-taking, and weekly reflection can help managers adapt to this context switching.

  • Picking Battles: With more to oversee, managers must prioritize and choose which issues to focus on, rather than trying to address everything. Perfectionism is not an option, and managers must get comfortable operating in a world where they can't fix every problem.

  • Delegation as Trust: Giving team members challenging problems to solve is a sign of trust, not a burden. Talented employees want to be empowered and trusted to tackle difficult tasks, not shielded from them. Managers should publicly declare their reports as owners of problems to empower them.

  • Shared Vision: Managers should focus on aligning with their reports on the team's biggest priorities, as well as their shared understanding of people, purpose, and process. This shared vision is more important than the manager knowing every detail of their reports' work.

  • Replacing Yourself: The best managers are constantly looking for ways to delegate responsibilities and replace themselves in their current role. This creates opportunities for growth and increased impact, both for the manager and the team.

Chapter Ten: Nurturing Culture

  • Understand Your Current Team and Aspirations: Reflect on the personality and strengths of your current team, as well as the qualities you aspire for your team to embody. Identify the gaps between your current team culture and your aspirations, and the obstacles that might hinder reaching those aspirations.

  • Communicate Your Values Consistently: Repeatedly and passionately communicate the values and norms you want to see in your team. Enlist others to help spread your message, as repetition is key for it to stick.

  • Lead by Example: Ensure your actions align with the values you espouse. People will closely observe whether you "walk the walk" and hold you accountable if there is a disconnect between your words and deeds.

  • Design the Right Incentives: Carefully consider how your team's incentive structure aligns with your desired culture. Avoid traps like rewarding individual performance over collaboration or short-term gains over long-term investments.

  • Invent Traditions that Celebrate Your Values: Establish rituals and traditions that bring your team's values to life in a fun, engaging way. These can range from hackathons to award ceremonies to shared activities that foster camaraderie.

  • Culture is Shaped by the Sum of Small Actions: Recognize that nurturing a healthy team culture is not about a few grand gestures, but the countless daily interactions and decisions that reinforce your values. Pay close attention to the little things you say and do, as well as the behaviors you reward or discourage.


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